IT'S STRICK'S CALL: Sunday will be a date to watch regarding the status of righthanded reliever Scott Strickland, who is currently pitching at Triple-A Norfolk.
If the Mets do not make a promotion by the end of the weekend, Strickland – who is 0-2 with a 2.45 ERA and four saves in eight appearances for the Tides – will be able to opt for free agency.
Strickland's numbers were hurt by his appearance on Thursday, as he did not record an out in the 10th inning, giving up three hits and a walk en route to his second loss at Triple-A this year.
Strickland already turned down one opportunity to leave the Mets organization once this spring, accepting a minor league assignment after it was clear he wouldn't make the major league roster, but twice may be too much to ask.
The 29-year-old Strickland, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery and last pitched in the majors in 2003, has shown good velocity and movement, and could help a big league team soon.
HOWE ABOUT THAT: Former Mets manager Art Howe told the Kansas City Star that he might be interested in taking the vacant Kansas City Royals managerial position. Tony Pena resigned last week, leaving Bob Schaefer as the interim manager.
Seemingly overmatched in his two seasons in New York, unable to balance a volatile clubhouse and the pressures of an intense spotlight, a smaller market like Kansas City could prove ideal for Howe.
“I did it in Houston and also in Oakland,” Howe told the newspaper. “It takes a while to get things going. You have to have patience. It comes with lumps.”
Howe is still under contract to the Mets for the 2005 and 2006 seasons, so any salary he received from another club would be subtracted from the Mets' obligation – similar to the setup that Bobby Valentine had with his ESPN salary in 2003.
FORMER MET TOCA HIT: Former Mets minor leaguer Jorge Toca, who played 25 games with the Mets from 1999 to 2001, was among 11 players suspended Thursday for violating Major League Baseball's minor league steroid policy.
Toca, 30, is currently in the Chicago White Sox farm system. He made ripples last week playing against Triple-A Norfolk when the Tides' Neal Musser and Mike DiFelice took exception to an unusually long trip around the bases after a May 7 home run.
“He didn’t hit the home run exceptionally far or hard,” Musser told the Virginian-Pilot Saturday. “It wasn’t a no-doubter, but he kind of took his time getting around the bases.”
The Mets return to Shea Stadium on Friday to open a nine-game homestand, seeing the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend.
Tom Glavine (1-4, 6.87) heads to the hill looking to reverse his recent struggles of late – Glavine has not won in his last three starts, allowing no fewer than four runs in any of those outings. Jason Marquis (5-1, 3.26) gets the start for St. Louis.
The rest of the weekend taps Pedro Martinez (4-1, 3.06) on Saturday against lefty Mark Mulder (5-1, 2.70), while Sunday pits Aaron Heilman (3-2, 4.08) against Matt Morris (2-0, 3.10).